Suharto seen from Different Angles of Perspective

Being 12,000 km away from Indonesia, I received the news of Suharto’s at least 8 hours later. Yesterday, as Stuart directly went to sports channel, I went blogwalking and found out that the former Indonesian president died. I immediately sent texts to several friends asking how the situation in Indonesia after the news is spread out. I was thinking it would have created chaos, that people would have started demanding justice, to bring Suharto’s children to trial. But no, I’ve heard my beloved country is officially in a state of mourning for 7 days.

Having read John Orford‘s question whether Indonesians give respect too easily, I continued my blogwalking, and I’ve found so many (Indonesian) bloggers post about Suharto. I was amazed (and confused?) to read that most of them forgive Suharto and pray for him.

Martin Manurung showed interesting differences of headlines on the Indonesian newspapers vs. other international press.

Indonesian Media International Media
  • Kompas: Warisan Soeharto (Suharto’s legacy)
  • Metro TV: Selamat Jalan Pak Harto (Good bye, Pak Harto)
  • Media Indonesia: Pak Harto Berpulang (Pak Harto Dies)
  • AP: Ex-Indonesian Dictator Suharto Dies
  • The Independent: Suharto, tyrant of Indonesia, dies without facing justice
  • The Canadian Press: Disgraced and vilified, Indonesia’s ex-dictator Suharto dies aged 86
  • CNN: Suharto was charming, but lethal,
  • NPR: Longtime Indonesian Strongman Suharto Dies at 86
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Wimar Witolear’s Perspektif Online posted few articles, and the most interesting is on its Soundbytes, as below:

clipped from

Nobody has the right to forgive Suharto except his victims.

The families of the hundreds of thousands of people whos lives he took, the millions of people living in poverty because of the billions of dollars he took for his family and cronies.

27 January 2008

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But the rest of the nation seem very forgiving and all pay respect to the ex-leader of Indonesian who ruled the country for 32 years.

Read what they say (in Indonesian):
Herman Saksono
M Fahmia
Menteri Desain Indonesia
Nurudin Jauhari
Progo Harbowo
Curious Zone

Read what they say in English:
Fatih Suyud
Cafe Salemba
Woolly Days
Larvatus Prodeo
Toxic Culture

So what is going to happen now in Indonesia?

Update on 28 January 2008:
Click on Indonesia Matters to read the informal poll – initiated by Achmad Sudarsono – about what people really think about Suharto.


  1. aroengbinang says:

    Indonesia mourns, but life goes on, and the country will continue its journey, wherever it is.
    Pak Harto will certainly be remembered as one of the great leaders, and no great leaders are free from gross weaknesses.
    It’s not that Indonesians forgive him too easily, it is that many Indonesians acknolwedge his great contributions to the country, amids his weaknesses, while a few others just painted him in black color, and hence critizing heavily on his weaknesses only, but no huge weaknesses exist in a person without great strengths.

  2. johnorford says:

    i feel that indonesia needs less “great” strong leaders. sukarno was also great, strong but also a disaster.

    indonesians seem to be in love with those types… george bush for next indonesian pres!! :):)

    pity they’re not in love with nelson mandela or pen pushers like alex hammond or bertie ahern…

  3. Indonesia needs either bad boy/good boy to be a leader especially who runs the country. So our nation will be strong. Istilahnya banyak makan asam garam. Democratic or authoritarian. We have a great example for that. May Soeharto represent the authoritarian style on the other hand, May Megawati or SBY represent the democratic style, and others could represent the combination. From them, we can learn what we need for this country. Soeharto has died, i’m respect him as the smiling general who great as decision maker but also i want justice for everyone. The trial should be resumed even for the civil one. This was missed by a decade of reformation regimes. Hopefully, there’ll be an answer for what Soeharto did in the past. So Indonesia can continue its journey in calmness and will heritage the next generation with true history also good hope/dream to build the country.

    Dream Project
    CuriousZone dot|INFO

  4. Andie Summerkiss says:

    Nothing serious happens yet. But there are a lot of talks on the following indictments of the rest of the family and the question where they hid the loot.

    I personally glad that it’s kind of over, but of course it is not really over. The nastiest is around the corner, but I hope I am wrong.


    numpang sidak :)

  6. This is a great post. We at Toxic Culture greatly appreciate the link and your comment. It is interesting. To what do you attribute this split between American (and western) demonization of Suharto and a more reverent Indonesian response? To me, it could be an American knee-jerk response to paint other leaders as “backwards dictators,” but since I was careful to note America’s culpability in Suharto’s horrors, is it also possible that Indonesian response has been more favorable to the memory of his regime since there are still pro-Suharto forces in positions of power there? I certainly didn’t feel any pressure to temper my memory of the man, and thus was quite harsh in my post. As I noted in my post, he was a superstitious despot and it’s hard to see the favorable spin on that. I’d love to debate someone on the upside of American IMET aid to Indonesia or the effects of Freeport’s mining operations.

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